Valuable Marc painting returned to heirs of Jewish owner

The Lower Saxony Landesbank NordLB has surprised the art world by returned a valuable painting to the heirs of its Jewish owner, collector Alfred Hess, whose collection was sold off cheap during the Third Reich.

Valuable Marc painting returned to heirs of Jewish owner
Photo: DPA

Rembert Schneider, spokesman for the bank told the Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung paper on Saturday, “We have restored it to the heirs of the previous Jewish owner.”

Although he admitted the bank had a moral duty to return it, he said there was not necessarily a legal one. The official handover actually took place late in 2008, the paper says, but has only now been reported.

The painting, Kinderbild (Katze hinter einem Baum) or “Children’s painting (cat behind a tree),” by Franz Marc, is on long-term loan to the Sprengel Museum in Hannover where it will remain.

It will have place of honour in the exhibition “Marc, Macke and Delaunay – the beauty of a shattering world (1910 – 1914)” which opens on March 29, where it will be marked with a sign saying “Private ownership.”

Anita Halpin, the granddaughter of Hess, who lives in England, has said she might be prepared to continue the loan of the painting to the museum.

She and her relatives created headlines and waves in the art world in 2006 when they sold the Kirchner painting Berliner Straßenszene or Berlin Street Scene, for around €30 million – shortly after retrieving it from the city’s Brücke Museum.

This sparked a controversial discussion about restoration of art to the heirs of Jews who had been forced to sell, or who could only sell their art at artificially reduced prices when desperate to escape the Nazis.

The circumstances in which this latest painting was taken from an exhibition in 1936, into the possession of the Hannover company Pelikan could not be explained despite months of intensive research commissioned by the bank. It is not known whether Hess’ son, by then living in exile in London, had ordered the sale or received its full worth.

The Hess heirs have further open claims against ten more German museums, for works which include further Marc and Kirchner paintings.


German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

A 50-year-old German man was jailed for life Tuesday for shooting dead a petrol station cashier because he was angry about being told to wear a mask while buying beer.

German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

The September 2021 murder in the western town of Idar-Oberstein shocked Germany, which saw a vocal anti-mask and anti-vaccine movement emerge in response to the government’s coronavirus restrictions.

The row started when 20-year-old student worker Alex W. asked the man to put on a mask inside the shop, as required in all German stores at the time.

After a brief argument, the man left.

The perpetrator – identified only as Mario N. – returned about an hour and a half later, this time wearing a mask. But as he bought his six-pack of beer to the till, he took off his mask and another argument ensued.

He then pulled out a revolver and shot the cashier in the head point-blank.

On Tuesday, the district court in Bad-Kreuznach convicted Mario N. of murder and unlawful possession of a firearm, and handed him a life sentence.

READ ALSO: Shock in Germany after cashier shot dead in Covid mask row

Under German law, people given a life sentence can usually seek parole after 15 years. His defence team had sought a sentence of manslaughter, rather than murder.

At the start of the trial, prosecutor Nicole Frohn told how Mario N. had felt increasingly angry about the measures imposed to curb the pandemic, seeing them as an infringement on his rights.

“Since he knew he couldn’t reach the politicians responsible, he decided to kill him (Alex W.),” she said.

Mario N. turned himself in to police the day after the shooting.

German has relaxed most of its coronavirus rules, although masks are still required in some settings, such as public transport.